1887 time capsule found inside Robert E. Lee Monument

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Crews working at the former Robert E. Lee monument in Virginia located what they believe is a time capsule from 1887, according to Brian Dickerson with Dickerson Construction.

The copper time capsule was found at 11:41 a.m. and weighs at least 30 pounds, twice as much as another time capsule opened last week, according to Kate Ridgway, State Archaeological Conservator for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

Ridgway said the copper time capsule was located in the northeast corner of the statue’s pedestal under the capstone and that it had been sitting in acidic water for a while. They have not yet seen an inscription on the box.

Gov. Ralph Northam tweeted, “They found it! This is likely the time capsule everyone was looking for. Conservators studying it — stay tuned for next steps! (Won’t be opened today).”

  • A look at where the 1887 time capsule was removed from the Lee pedestal.
  • View of the time capsule
  • A look at where the 1887 time capsule was removed from the Lee pedestal
  • The 1887 time capsule

The time capsule opened last week was not referenced in historical documents.

A Richmond Magazine article from 2017 tells the story of the time capsule and the items that are thought to be inside, including an irreplaceable artifact related to President Abraham Lincoln.

The Robert E. Lee Monument was the largest Confederate statue in the United States and the last to be removed from Richmond’s Monument Avenue in September 2021. Although the state announced its intentions to remove the statue in 2020, the plans were embroiled in legal disputes for more than a year before the Virginia Supreme Court sided with Gov. Northam and cleared the way for the statue’s removal.

Gov. Northam announced on Dec. 17 that construction crews removing the Robert E. Lee pedestal from Monument Avenue had located the historical time capsule. A previous effort to find the vessel in September of this year was not successful, and after a full day of searching, work crews abandoned their efforts and proceeded to move forward with a plan to bury a new time capsule.

The items in the new time capsule are the result of a statewide effort to include images and artifacts relevant to our time — an expired vial of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Kente cloth worn at the 400th commemoration of 1619, an Equal Rights Amendment sash and a photo of a Black ballerina posed in front of the Robert E. Lee Monument.

  • Search for the 1887 time capsule
  • Search for the 1887 time capsule
  • Search for the 1887 time capsule

Ridgeway said that the capstone weighed 3,000 pounds, and 632 stones were removed, tagged and will be preserved. She also noted that the governor’s office will coordinate the time capsule’s opening.

WRIC’s Sabrina Shutters contributed to this report.

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